News: ‘First Lightning’ supports special forces, Air Force training near Salina
Story by Sgt. Daniel Stoutamire
By Sgt. Daniel Stoutamire
2nd ABCT public affairs
SALINA, Kan. — As helicopters and fixed-wing gunships roamed the skies and U.S. special operations troops maneuvered in front of them, Soldiers with 1st Battalion, 7th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division rained shells into a nearby impact area with a series of complicated firing missions.
From June 13-27, the “First Lightning” Battalion was supporting the joint exercise near Salina at a firing point called Smoky Hill; their main role was to help Air Force Joint Tactical Air Controllers train in a realistic environment using live ammunition. JTACs are responsible for communicating with both land- and air-based indirect fire platforms.
Our role is assisting (Joint Special Operations Command) so that they get the fire support that they need,” Sgt. James Key, a crew chief with Btry. A, 1st Bn., 7th FA Regt. and a Charlotte, N.C., native, said. “Everybody on my crew has done really well.”
Key, whose M109A6 Paladin howitzer is called “Apollo,” added that some of the firing missions required are keeping him and his crew on their toes.
“It’s not just the normal ‘fire when ready’ or ‘one time on target’ – it’s multiple times on targets,’ or ‘at my command,’ or by ‘piece by round,”’ he said, naming some more difficult fire missions. “It’s good to be able to vary up the method of fire that’s coming down to the gun line.”
In addition to the guns on the line, the battalion had a fire direction cell in place to coordinate missions.
“Along with my (fire direction noncommissioned officer), I compute firing data that gets sent to the Paladins,” 2nd Lt. Paul Dyer, fire direction officer with Btry. A, 1st Bn., 7th FA Regt. and a Truckee, Calif., native, said. “It helps us meet the required accurate and predictive fires, and makes sure that we are able to accurately engage the targets that the observers send us.”
With more gunnery tables on the horizon for the battalion, Btry. A’s commander said their participation in this exercise is a good chance to get more work in.
“This is a golden opportunity to exercise our systems and make sure that we are maintaining standards on the gun line and FDC,” Capt. Jonathan Damalouji said. “Today for example we did a simultaneous mission — that’s essentially the entire gun line is shooting two different targets at the same time. It’s been really beneficial training so far.”